How to Become a Tax Preparer (A Complete Guide)

Are you considering becoming a tax preparer in the U.S.? This guide lays out the requirements, career path, and resources available to help you become one.

A business woman poses in her nicely furnished office wearing glasses and a blazer.
A business woman poses in her nicely furnished office wearing glasses and a blazer.

Did you know that becoming a tax preparer is one of the most in-demand career paths today? There’s a reason for that. There are tons of opportunities to learn how to become a tax preparer, and as an independent contractor in the field, you’ll have a lot of flexibility and freedom to work from anywhere.

But how can you find out if it’s right for you? Keep reading to learn more about what it takes to become a tax preparer, and how Intuit can help you get started on this exciting career path.

What are the Tax Preparer Requirements in the U.S.? 

Becoming a tax preparer is a straightforward process. First, you will need to  take a course to receive certification. This course involves learning the ins and outs of preparing taxes and tax laws. 

Next, you will need access to tax preparation software. You may do so through a company or by purchasing the software yourself. You also must obtain a preparer tax identification number (PTIN) from the IRS to prepare taxes for others. 

Once you have accomplished the  three tasks above, you will need to find clients. New tax preparers tend to stick with simple individual returns, or 1040s, for the first year or so. Once you have gained the necessary experience, you can move on to more complicated tax returns. 

What is the IRS Tax Preparer Certification?

To be a tax preparer, you need to pass a test with the IRS to receive your PTIN. Your PTIN will allow you to complete tax returns and submit them on behalf of others but will not permit you to provide CPA or lawyer services such as giving advice or helping with tax 

Enrolled Agents

You also may choose  to become an enrolled agent. Enrolled agents have passed scrutinous tests and are licensed by the IRS with the highest tax credential. Those who become enrolled agents are tax experts and must meet  continuing education requirements to maintain their certifications. 

Do You Need a License to Prepare Tax Returns?

A PTIN is not a license to prepare tax returns. If you want to become a tax representative you must complete the enrolled agent, CPA, or tax attorney process. 

Some states do require an extra credential to file tax returns. You are responsible for knowing your state’s requirements before you start working as a tax preparer. Some states that currently require an additional  credential are as follows:

IRS E-File Requirements for Tax Preparers

Preparers who file more than 11 returns a year must e-file every return they complete unless they have filed a waiver that has been approved by the IRS. To e-file, you must apply for an electronic filing identification number (EFIN) and pass a suitability check with the IRS. The EFIN is used to submit each prepared tax return through the e-file system. You must be an authorized e-file provider and have an EFIN to submit electronic returns. 


An electronic federal identification number  (“EFIN”) does not expire.  If you start a company or if your business’ employer identification number has changed you would need to apply for a new EFIN. Only one EFIN is required per tax preparation location. It’s not required for every tax preparer. 

What Do Most People Not Know About Working as a Tax Preparer? 

Many people may not understand how complex tax laws can be. Or that they change yearly before each tax season. Becoming a tax preparer can be a rewarding job, but it also has its challenges. 

Sometimes, clients are difficult. Some of them will even lie and provide you with  fraudulent information to include on a return. Understanding potential types of information people may lie about and how to recognize fraud is vital for success. 

Tax preparation can be a very lucrative career, but the income does fluctuate. During the tax season is when you’ll see the most activity, so you have to work a lot if you want to make the big bucks. 

How Does One Become a Work-From-Home Tax Preparer? 

There are three ways to become a work-from-home tax preparer. You can work for a company, become an independent contractor, or start your own business. Many tax preparation companies have remote positions available, you just need to get your identification numbers and start applying! 

Intuit offers a variety of remote positions for TurboTax Live.  Check out our open positions for more information. 

How Long Does It Take to Become a Tax Preparer? 

Technically, it only takes as long as it takes the IRS to process your PTIN and EFIN applications and send you the numbers. However, becoming a seasoned tax preparer with clients is a longer process. 

Most tax preparers spend the first two years of tax preparation learning how to do the job properly. Spending the first two years gaining the necessary experience to increase your tax preparation knowledge gives many preparers the skills to advance upward. The timeline may look different depending on your experience and current tax knowledge. 

The Experience of Working at Intuit on TurboTax Live

As one of the largest employers of tax and accounting professionals in the country, Intuit knows a thing or two about taxes. That’s why we’re so proud to offer TurboTax Live as part of our lineup.  TurboTax Live is a completely new way for customers to get answers to their tax questions, enabling them to get answers from a live expert, anytime they need it.  

Working on TurboTax Live can be challenging, but it’s also a lot of fun. The environment is engaging and fast-paced, with a culture that promotes collaboration and creativity.

Flexible Work Scheduling

A flexible work schedule is one of the many perks of working at Intuit. Our employees have the freedom to select their own scheduling options, which allows them to balance their social and personal lives while still meeting their responsibilities as tax preparers.

Professional Development Opportunities

As Intuit continues to grow the TurboTax Live business,  we’re looking for people who are ready to join us on our journey. We offer many opportunities for career growth, from entry-level positions to higher-level managerial roles.

We believe in continuous improvement and encourage you to learn new skills and techniques through training classes, conferences, and other learning opportunities. If you want to further your career by learning how to use new tax-related technology or software programs, we can help make that happen. 

Intuit provides growth and development opportunities to support your journey and goals. Through experience and by earning your enrolled agent credential and/or bookkeeping certification you can develop into your future role as a Tax Expert, Lead, or Manager. If you’re already a Tax Associate interested in becoming credentialed, Intuit will cover the cost of study materials and curriculum to help you secure your Enrolled Agent credential to increase your TurboTax Live job opportunities!

Enhanced Tax Preparer Career Options

You’ll get to learn how to use industry-leading technology while helping people understand complex tax situations. You’ll also be supported with ongoing training, coaching, and mentorship opportunities so you can build your skill set as you progress. Intuit’s  goal is to ensure that every employee has the opportunity to grow and develop into an expert who can handle every kind of tax situation with confidence.

We believe that every person deserves affordable access to quality tax preparation services — especially during tax season, when time is of the essence. Our tax preparers help customers file their taxes right in their own homes by providing them with one on one support throughout the entire tax filing process.

If you have more questions about becoming a tax preparer at Intuit. Check out the FAQs: Working as a remote tax preparer

Finding Resources for Becoming a US Tax Expert

If you are interested in becoming a tax expert, there are many resources available both online and offline that can help you learn about the process and requirements for becoming a tax preparer. For example, the IRS website has a section dedicated to helping individuals become tax preparers.

The IRS recommends that you first look into your state’s licensing requirements. Each state has different licensing requirements for tax preparers, so it is important to check with your local government before making any decisions.

Tax Preparer Courses

If you want to become an accredited tax expert, then you will need to take some education courses at an accredited university or institution. The IRS also recommends that you take continuing education classes every year to ensure that you stay up to date on all changes made by Congress or the IRS itself.

There are many tax prep programs available to prepare you for this exciting career. Read about the best tax preparer courses to see what your options are. Whether you want to take an online course or attend tax school in person, there are options out there for everyone. If you prefer hands-on training and interacting with instructors, then attending an in-person tax education class is probably the best option for you. 

Intuit Academy

Intuit offers some of the most in-depth, comprehensive courses for those who want to pursue a career as a tax preparer. This is a great platform for anyone looking for a career change or simply wanting to learn about tax preparation.

The Intuit Academy offers two courses in tax: Tax Level 1 (30 hours long) focusing on tax fundamentals and Tax Level 2 (20 hours long) covering more complex tax topics. These courses teach you the tax preparation knowledge including: 

  • Preparation of individual tax returns
  • Maximization of credits and deductions
  • Preparation of more complex tax returns for rental owners, self-employed, and investors

After each course, you’re required to take a 1.5-2 hour Intuit Academy Tax examination depending on the level. After successfully passing both these exams, you’ll earn the digital certificate of completion for Intuit Academy Tax Exam – Level 1 and Intuit Academy Tax Exam – Level 2, which you can list on your resume or online career profile. Level 1 badge will help you qualify for jobs and stand out to recruiters when you apply for TurboTax Live Expert. Level 2 is very advanced and is not required by TurboTax Live jobs. 

The TurboTax Library

TurboTax maintains a library of professional materials for anyone interested in becoming a tax preparer. The TurboTax Tax Pro Center is a comprehensive resource for certified public accountants, tax attorneys, and enrolled agents who want to learn more about preparing taxes with TurboTax.

The Tax Pro Center includes articles, videos, and webinars on all aspects of the tax return preparation process, including:

  • Filing returns on behalf of clients
  • Preparing state and federal tax returns for businesses, trusts, and estates
  • Working with complex tax issues, such as rental income from multiple properties
  • Recognizing fraud on returns
  • Understanding how to handle foreign income and assets

In addition, the site provides links to other resources that can help preparers navigate through changes in tax laws — such as new legislation passed by Congress or regulations issued by the IRS.

What Software Programs Do Tax Preparers Use?

Tax preparation software is designed specifically for preparing taxes. It typically includes forms, checklists, calculators, and other features that help users quickly and accurately complete their tax returns.

Self-employed tax preparers, or people new to tax preparation in general, can use these tools to file returns correctly and avoid making mistakes that could result in fines or penalties. Tax preparation software sometimes comes with a price tag, but it’s often less expensive than hiring a new accountant or taking time off from work to go to the local IRS office.

For instance, tax preparers at Intuit get a free copy of TurboTax Live. They can also have access to ProSeries Professional by Intuit at a discount. ProSeries is an all-in-one tax solution that includes tax planning and compliance services, as well as software for preparing and filing both federal and state income tax returns.

With ProSeries Professional, you can:

  • Quickly prepare your clients’ returns with a beautiful, easy-to-use interface
  • Save time by importing data directly from other programs like QuickBooks
  • Access comprehensive guidance from tax experts through the ProSeries community
  • Manage multiple clients’ information in one place with the ability to view multiple cases at once while working on them simultaneously

One of the advantages of using tax preparation software like ProSeries Professional is that it can help you save time. It has a review process in place that will flag any mistakes or issues with your return before you submit it to the IRS. This means that you can go back and fix errors without having to start over from scratch.

How to Become a Tax Preparer: Next Steps 

Now that you understand how to become a tax preparer, you are ready to get started on your new path. Whether you are already in the tax field or just starting out, this guide can help you determine your next steps. 

If you’re interested in becoming a tax preparer, applying directly or joining the Talent Community at TurboTax may be just the right move. Currently, there are three types of positions open at TurboTax Live.

Tax Associate (Remote/Seasonal)

  • Minimum 2 seasons of paid tax preparation experience, with a minimum of 30 tax returns per tax year required. If you have the Tax Level 1 badge, then you only need 1 year of paid tax prep experience with 30 tax returns per season. 
  • Prior tax preparation experience in a tax practice or retail setting 
  • Ability/motivation to expand expertise and obtain a tax credential or certification — Intuit offers a program for obtaining your enrolled agent (EA) credential
  • Knowledge of tax laws and tax concepts and familiarity with Form 1040 and schedules
  • Preparer tax identification number (PTIN) required

Credentialed Tax Expert (Remote/Seasonal)

  • Possess active unrestricted credential: EA (Enrolled Agent), CPA (Certified Public Accountant), or Practicing Attorney
  • Possess or be able to obtain any related state licenses, certificates, permits, or bonds
  • Possess active PTIN
  • Have 2 or more years of recent experience preparing federal and state individual 1040 tax returns for clients/customers, using commercial tax preparation software
  • Bilingual a plus

Bilingual Spanish Tax Expert (Remote/ Seasonal)

  • Possess active unrestricted credential: EA (Enrolled Agent), CPA (Certified Public Accountant), or Practicing Attorney
  • 2 or more years of recent experience preparing federal and state individual 1040 tax returns for clients/customers, using commercial tax preparation software
  • Possess or be able to obtain any related State licenses, certificates, permits or bonds
  • Possess active PTIN (Preparer Tax Identification Number)
  • Bilingual (English/Spanish) communication skills (written & spoken) required

Joining the Tax and Bookkeeping Community

The Intuit Tax & Bookkeeping Talent Community is an exclusive marketplace for tax professionals and bookkeepers looking for work and employers looking for great talent. We’ve partnered with tax professionals across all 50 states to help them find their next job or grow their business. In addition to helping you find employment, we also provide online training and certification, so you can get started on your way to becoming a Tax Expert today.

Come join our Talent Community to access our career resources today.